I promised my mom I wouldn’t have sex until I graduated high school. Which, of course, meant two things: one, I became the absolute master at giving blowjobs, and two, come June, I was ready to do my obligatory sexual duties. The session lasted a total of ten minutes; the entire time he was forcefully thrusting his weight into my pelvis, the sweat from his chest so thick it dripped on my bare breasts, I was staring at a Cardinals t-shirt that was thrown on the floor. And it was over. I laid on the bed feeling no different than I did ten minutes before.
I realized I had been sold a lie: about sex, virginity, pleasure, and being a woman. As I get older and begin to explore my own sexuality, I struggle to define the complexities of it. I had sex at eighteen not because I wanted to, but because I had been dating someone for two years and there was an expected social exchange. There was an implied dialogue: “if you don’t soon, he will leave.” And, although this may not have been his intention or thought, it was an idea that was socially embedded into me as a woman. Sex was currency; my body was currency.
When asked who my first kiss was, I lie.
His name was John, but everyone called him Finney. He wore a jean jacket every day despite the weather. Patches with band names I didn’t recognize were hand-sewn in illogical places. Our first kiss was sloppy and wet, his tongue traveled the unexplored regions of my mouth. I could still taste the pizza we had for dinner on his breath.
But, the truth is, the first time a man kissed me, I was eleven years-old and he was 60.
I had to stuff down my impulse to cry. Bile rose from my stomach as my tongue stayed supplanted at the bottom of my mouth avoiding his invading tongue. His lips were rough and callous. He would stop to tell me to use my tongue. If I tried to pull away or tell him I was tired, he would press harder and reassure me that I liked it. I wanted that to be true.
When I ask others about their first kiss, they follow it up with a question: my real first kiss or the first time I was kissed? They tell their playground kiss stories with blushed cheeks: Josh kissed me while playing hide and seek in the third grade. What follows is a kiss they received four or five years later: a kiss shared between two teenagers. Much like my kiss with Finney, their kiss is awkward, confusing, and unpleasant for the reasons first kisses are supposed to be unpleasant.
To achieve what we currently consider consent, one has to be of right mind and body. If we are to consider “right mind” to be a requirement when defining consent, to what measure do societal ideals embedded in our consciousness impact our ability to make these choices? If individuals are conditioned to view sex as an expectation and requirement in successful relationships, are they still capable of providing true consent?
My first year of marriage was a learning experience. My mother, always hopeful for grandchildren, asked me if I was still taking birth control. No, I answered. Elated, she asked if I changed my mind about children. I told her, no, and mistakenly followed that with the explanation: “we just don’t really have sex very often.”
Now, this is not to say that my husband and I were not intimate. I’ve shared the most sacred moments of my life with him; he knows me better than anyone ever could. However, once I revealed this fact to my mother, she informed me that: “if he isn’t getting it from you, he is getting it from someone else.”
I brought it to the attention of my husband: “we don’t have sex enough.” We worked out plans and schedules.
Sex was a ritual. First, there was the removal of garments: slow and confusing. I’d undo my bra while he’d kiss my collarbone and his lips would descend. I’d struggle with his belt, tugging at it until he finally removed it himself. He’d shuffle awkwardly as he slid his pants and boxers off. I’d stay clothed as long as possible, my underwear still on while his fingers would reach underneath. Every move was strategic and robotic. First this, then that.
Once all clothing was removed, I’d go down on him and vice versa. Eventually, the final act, him climbing on top of me, his weight suffocating, the bed forming to the curves of my body, the sound of the spring and headboard with each thrust. The sigh of relief when he finished. Laying in the bed alone as he disappeared with the condom still hanging from his fingers. My body: raw and exposed.
When he returned, I’d always smile. A sexy smile; devious, as if what we just did was secret and depraved. It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy sex or each other, but we found we were able to be intimate in ways besides intercourse. The only reason this felt wrong was because society was telling us it was wrong — Cosmo magazine, my friends, and my family were all offering morsels of advice on how to improve my broken marriage. My friends blamed it on my husband’s depression. My mom thought he was cheating. He thought something was wrong with him. I thought there was something wrong with me. The issue was that there wasn’t an issue. As we know, successful relationships are measured by more complex things than fulfilled sex quotas.
As we begin to define consent and its extremities, we are beginning to learn that the definition is not cut and dry. I say this not to defend a grey area of consent, but to argue the inability to give full sexual consent without first deconstructing embedded ideas about sex.
When I discuss my real first kiss – the one where the eleven-year-old with more acne than she had breasts was coerced into a kiss she did not want – the definition of consent is clear: I did not consent to that kiss. When I consider the multitude of sexual acts I took part in because I felt I was expected to, I have to question if those acts were consented to. Misogyny runs deep in everyone’s veins; it still runs thick and coarse in mine.
Image courtesy flickr.com/thefuturistics